Creating Joy with Children Through Improv

This pandemic is hard.

But I know that in spite of a world in pain, there’s still joy to experience.

Joy that has been pushed aside by so many challenges. Let’s go on a journey to expand it together.

How? We grow it by paying attention to what brings us joy. What we pay attention to grows. We get to choose. Let’s tend to our joy by focusing on it. 

Let your mind soften and relax. 

Breathe in and out slowly a few times. 

Allow your body to relax. 

Recall a time when you felt happy, joyous. 

Where were you? 

Who were you with? 

Daydream for a minute about what brings you joy. Recall it as clearly and with as much detail as you can. Breathe in and out slowly a few times. What are some of the words you can say that could remind you of this joyous time?

Joy Ball

A Warm-Up Game to Create Joy Within a Group by Carrie Caudle

I recently made up the simplest game, and I’m delighted to share it with the world. This game was created organically–in the warm-up for a show–based on the needs of the group. It can be played in person or in a virtual environment. Since we discovered it on Zoom, that’s how I will describe it here.

My performance group, RagTag Improv, was warming up for a SuperScene show on Zoom. We were lucky to be playing with Kasey Klemm (of BATS Improv), and he kept encouraging us to find the joy in the character and in the scene–and show that joy to our audience. In full “Yes, and!” spirit, I wanted to both honor and build on this wonderful idea for our group as we warmed up as an ensemble.
And, in that moment, “Joy Ball” was born!

How to Play

  • Tell the participants, “Take a moment to think of a couple of things that bring you joy. Try not to be clever or interesting. Just be honest. These could be very big things, or very little things…or anything in between.”
  • Since we’re in Zoom, say the name of the person to whom you’re throwing the “ball” right before you throw it. You don’t need to remember a pattern for this game. Just be open and ready to catch the ball at any moment.
  • After saying someone’s name, throw a pretend/space object ball and say aloud one thing that brings you joy. Revel in being specific. Don’t pause or try to think of the perfect thing. Just think, “Joy…” and then say what comes to your mind first.
  • If someone just said your name and threw the joy ball to you, then catch that ball by miming that catch with your hands and repeating what that person just said. Say it in an honest, joyful tone of voice and do your best to have eye contact with that person.
  • Then, say the name of a new person and say something that brings you joy while you throw a space object joy ball with your hands. They will catch your joy ball and repeat what you just said.
  • Keep going. While there is no repeating pattern, be mindful of the entire group. Make sure each person gets the ball–be as inclusive as possible.
  • If someone else’s idea inspires you, great. If you repeat something, that’s no problem. Just be honest and in the moment.
  • Keep going until the game leader calls the end of the game (usually 5 minutes or so).

When we played this game, we noticed a clear change of energy in the group. As each person shared what brought them joy and as they heard that joy repeated by another, their face seemed to brighten. Our shoulders lifted and our voices became lighter. We shared laughter and gained a deeper understanding of what made each member of the ensemble happy.

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